The Female Emigration Society – Article 1

This benevolent society came about in response to the plight of the needlewomen of London and was supported by Caroline Chisholm, Sidney Herbert and Lord Ashley amongst others.

We have transcribed eight corresponding articles that were published in The Morning Chronicle in connection with the “Labour and the Poor” letters which you can find below. Each article has links to the other articles at the top and bottom of the page.

The Morning Chronicle, Tuesday, February 26, 1850.


This benevolent Association has practically commenced its operations. The Female Emigration Society, it will be remembered, was called into being by that portion of the series of letters on “Labour and the Poor” devoted to the condition of the needlewomen of the metropolis. The object of the Association is sufficiently denoted by its title. It seeks to transplant to a new and rising country that species of labour for which there is least demand here, and that class of individuals which in our existing state of society are at once the most suffering and the most helpless. Yesterday the first party of female emigrants, sent forth under the auspices of the Society, proceeded down the river to the ship Culloden, lying at Gravesend. The Society have refrained from chartering a ship exclusively for their emigrants, believing it to be better policy to send them by small parties on board the ordinary class of vessels, so as to get rid, as far as possible, of invidious distinctions, and to merge the young persons sent out under their auspices in that general tide of emigration which is now setting in so fast from our shores to those of the Australasian continent. The Culloden sails from the river this day. She may touch at one of the Cape de Verd Islands, in case of being detained long in the Chops of the Channel; but the probability is, that the white cliffs once lost sight of, she will steadily hold on her unchanging course for her ultimate destination—Port Phillip.

The young female emigrants for whom the Association has provided berths on board the Culloden met yesterday, by appointment, at the Fenchurch-street Terminus of the Blackwall Railway. There also were collected several principal members of the committee, who had determined to see the first party of their protégées fairly off upon their long but hopeful voyage. The Right Hon. Mr. Sidney Herbert, the Hon. Mr. Arthur Kinnaird, the Hon. Mr. Littleton, Sir H. Verney, the Rev. J. Brown, the Rev. Mr. Sanger, and the Rev. Mr. Quekett were of the party, which was also graced by the presence of the Right Hon. Mrs. Sidney Herbert, and the Hon. Mrs. Wortley. Several gentlemen of literary celebrity were present, and amongst them we were rejoiced to recognise—looking none the worse, as the public will be glad to learn, from his recent long and severe illness—the author of “Vanity Fair.”

Thirty-eight was the number of female emigrants who constituted the party destined for the Culloden. They assembled punctually to their time at the Fenchurch-street station, were regularly mustered, and answered to their names previously to the starting of the train. Their heavy luggage had been, of course, already stowed away aboard, but most of the girls carried parcels, or small bundles, and each was provided with a stout canvass bag of sand, to be used, as we understood, for drying the berth deck after scouring. The girls were, in a few instances only, accompanied to the railway by their friends and relations. There were, of course, in these cases, touching and affectionate farewells given and taken, but there were no manifestations of that despairing grief, none of those painful outbreaks of emotion, which we have more than once witnessed upon similar occasions. On the contrary, although “some natural tears they shed,” hope, buoyant hope, was evidently in the ascendant in the breasts of the vast majority of the emigrants, and cheerful tones would ever and anon break out amid sobs, and smiles shine forth through tears.

From Blackwall, the Satellite steamer conveyed the party down the river, and in due time, by an ebbing tide, which almost counterbalanced an easterly breeze, the steam-boat swept up alongside the good ship Culloden, anchored off the Terrace-pier, at Gravesend, her stout bulwarks dotted with anxiously peering heads, evidently watching with great interest for the advent of their compagnons de voyage. The Culloden is a full-rigged ship of about 750 tons burden—a stout, bluff-built, and serviceable merchantman—possibly not a very quick craft in light breezes, but likely, in all probability, to be all the snugger therefore when labouring over a mutinous sea—the scud flying fast to leeward, and two reefs in the topsails.

Arrived alongside, the emigrants and their friends at once proceeded aboard. The Culloden is a regular poop-ship, carrying cabin passengers. The deck arrangements are of the usual class. The launch—“Old Harney,” as men-of-war’s-men call the boat—furnishes a convenient pen for the sheep, while the pigs are stowed away beneath the shelter which she affords. A couple of life-boats are suspended a little abaft, while the ship carries the usual quarter-boats starboard and larboard. The arrangements on the berth-deck are different from those adopted on board Government emigration vessels, affording a greater degree of privacy; but, in the opinion of very competent judges, not being by any means so advantageous in respect to the supply of light and fresh air.

Let us briefly attempt to sketch the coup d’œil ’tween decks. Imagine, then, running from the foremast right aft, a dim shadowy corridor, illumined only by the square patches of light streaming down the open hatchways. Right fore and aft extends a long narrow table, with raised ledges, so as to avert, as far as possible, the chances of smashed crockery in a rolling sea, while a frame-work above the centre of the board, hung all along with mugs and jugs, shows that the dining-table answers the purpose of a beaufet as well; on either side a long range of what men at sea call bulkhead, and men on shore partition, composed of white unpainted wood, screens off the sleeping berths—the humble state-rooms of the main deck—from what may be called the living and sitting room. The single men are bestowed for’ard, the married couples are disposed amidships, and the single women sleep aft. Let us push aside the sliding door, and glance into one of the many tiny chambers which, for four or five months, are to be the sleeping apartments of from five to ten young women. In the former case, imagine a “nook”—that is the most expressive word we can find—about seven feet by five. The seven feet are to be measured transversely from the bulkhead to the ship’s side. Along them are four berths, two on either side, the berths being, in other words, shallow boxes without lids, fitted with beds and blankets, and not at all devoid of a certain air of compact snugness. Along the side of the ship, beneath the small air-hole, runs the fifth berth. The oblong patch of floor is principally occupied by a chest destined to contain the clothes to be worn on the voyage; and above it, and close to the fifth berth, is a curious extempore-looking washhand-stand, with a due allowance of tin basins. The larger “state-rooms” are of course fitted up on the same system of ingenious economy of space. Right aft—just inside the stern windows, and commanding an uninterrupted view of the wake—is disposed a labyrinth of berths, arranged so as to form quite a large sleeping-room, and laid out with curious ingenuity, so as not to leave a square inch of room unoccupied. It was pleasant to see how satisfied the emigrants seemed to be with their novel accommodation—how fussily each girl arranged her parcels upon her bed, and with what innocent importance she announced to all querists that that was to be her berth. After the first brush of sea-sickness is got over, we doubt not but that the Culloden will prove a comfortable and an orderly ship.

The thirty-eight young women despatched by the Female Emigration Society consist, we believe, of individuals selected with anxious and discriminating care; ample testimonials as to moral and industrial character having been exacted, and full inquiry instituted, in each case. The emigrants were plainly but comfortably and warmly clothed, and presented, I was assured, and can well believe, a very different appearance to that which they had exhibited on their first application to the committee.

On the voyage, educational training is, as far as possible, to be conjoined with needlework. The matron is to arrange her charge into classes, for the purposes of scriptural and general reading, with instructions in writing, arithmetic, and geography. A great quantity of calico has been put on board, supplied by a large City house at cost price, with models of the shirts generally used in the “bush,” and the products of every girl’s industry during the voyage will be delivered up to her on landing. In addition to the usual ship allowance, Mr. Sidney Herbert sent on board a quantity of “concentrated milk,” to be used on high days and holidays throughout the voyage.

To one very hopeful feature of the day’s transactions we must devote a special paragraph. Close to the Culloden, and bound to the same port, lies the fine ship Sir Robert Sale, freighted with a goodly company of agricultural emigrants. The surgeon of the latter vessel—a gentleman, we understand, well known and highly respected in the colony—came yesterday on board the Culloden, commissioned to offer engagements in the new households of the emigrating farmers to at least twenty of the society’s protégées, while the rest were assured that they would find many homes eagerly opened to them.

After the emigrants had been finally mustered on the quarter-deck, the Rev. Mr. Quekett addressed a few words to them. They had in a body attended the reverend gentleman’s chapel the Sunday evening before, when an address suitable to the occasion was delivered. Mr. Quekett merely took the last opportunity of recommending to them the strict observance of the rules of the ship, and entreated them to be in all things obedient to the matron and the other authorities placed over them.

This appeared to be the most trying moment. Many of the poor girls broke into open lamentations, others turned aside and wept silently, but the time was up—the steamer again alongside. There were hearty shakes of the hand, and fervently-expressed thanks and good wishes, and promises to write long and speedily, and then, to the shrill call of the boatswain’s whistle, the bulwarks were crowded fore and aft, and, under three good hearty English cheers, the Satellite shot away up the river on her return.

So, as the old bills of lading had it, “May God send the good ship safe on her destined voyage!”

The Morning Chronicle, Tuesday, February 26, 1850.